After you make bread dough, it needs to rise in a warm place. The final rise before baking is always called proofing, and some recipes refer to earlier rises as proofing the bread as well. The best environment for proofing is between 23.9 and 29.4 degrees Celsius and free of drafts that would disrupt the process. Although commercial bakers have special proofing boxes with carefully regulated conditions, home bakers rarely use these. The best place to proof dough is in an oven that has been gently heated to the ideal temperature.
Prepare the bread dough according to your recipe.
Lightly grease the sides of a large bowl with oil.
Place the ball of dough in the bowl and turn it so its entire surface is covered in a light coating of oil.
Cover the bowl loosely with a clean towel or a piece of cling film.
Place a casserole dish full of hot water on the bottom rack of your oven. This will keep the oven moist so the dough does not get dry and crusty. It also provides some residual heat.
Warm the oven up slightly. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, it should already be slightly warm. If you have an oven light, turn that on to provide some heat. Another method is to turn the oven on to the lowest setting for about one minute and then turn it off. It should feel warm, but not hot, in the oven.
Place the bowl of bread dough in the oven on the middle or top rack. Leave at least a couple of inches above the bowl in case the dough rises beyond the top.
Wait while the dough rises to double its previous size. This should take one to two hours.
Punch the dough down. If the recipe calls for a second rise, turn the dough over and repeat Steps 4 through 8.
Follow your recipe's directions to shape your dough into loaves or rolls, proof it again and bake it.
The oven should never be on while the dough is proofing in it. Remove the dough before you preheat the oven to bake the bread.